Matter of annexation returns to Belmont council

The battle over whether Belmont should annex a 67-acre unincorporated region has flared up again, but outspoken leaders in the region’s business community have a message for city officials: Leave us alone.

In a study session tonight, Belmont officials will consider the issue of taking control of that piece of the Harbor Industrial Area, which has roughly 60 industrial businesses in it. The annexation idea has been a recurring topic since San Carlos annexed the other 163 acres of the region in 1997. However, HIA leaders in the unincorporated zone say they’re not willing to join Belmont as long as its government remains unstable.

“They have had interim city managers for the past three years,” said Howard Jones, past president of the HIA. “We have lost confidence in the process, and we’re not going to go back into talks with them until they have a permanent city manager who is there for a minimum of one year.”

In the early part of this decade, HIA leaders collaborated with then-City Manager Jere Kersnar on an annexation agreement, but Kersnar left his post in 2004, leaving those negotiations in disarray, according to Jones.

Now, Councilmembers Bill Dickenson and Warren Lieberman have been charged with studying the feasibility of annexing the HIA. Belmont’s general plan urges city leaders to acquire unincorporated land such as this piece, which is bounded by Belmont Creek, Old County Road, O’Neill Street and U.S. Highway 101, according to Dickenson.

Acquiring the land would benefit Belmont, giving the city the option to redevelop with moneymaking ventures such as retail, hotels and condominiums, according to Dickenson.

“At its peak, best use, we have to pick industries that create revenue opportunities for the city as a whole,” Dickenson said.

However, Councilmember Dave Warden isn’t certain the annexation will be the windfall Dickenson is hoping for.

The 67-acre piece, valued at roughly $150 to $200 million, won’t be a major source of property taxes, and will leave Belmont responsible for supplying maintenance and public-safety services.

“I’ve never seen this as a huge priority, and I don’t know why it continues to return [as an issue],” Warden said. “At one point, the city council passed a resolution that we’d only do this with willing partners.”

Right now, the HIA isn’t willing.

“There’s a fear that they will change the zoning and folks who have a family business would be history,” Jones said. “If they want to start another war, we will be there.”

The Belmont City Council meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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